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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Updated: January 21, 11:12 AM ET
Trend-spotting: Final look at the data

By Ken Daube
Special to ESPN.com

Welcome to this year's final installment of Trend-spotting. It's been an honor to compile the trends and statistics used in this column for this fantasy football season. It's my hope that you were able to use it to gain a competitive advantage in all your leagues through the way those trends and the support statistics were presented.

On target

Here are the NFL leaders in terms of passing targets per game for the past five weeks.

With those numbers in mind, and since one of the keys of winning fantasy football is to identify trends before everyone else does, here's a closer looks into this weekend's box scores.

Brandon Marshall (28 targets; 21 receptions; 200 yards): Not only did Marshall set a record for most receptions in a game, but the 28 targets are the highest number for any receiver since at least the 1999 NFL season.

Wes Welker (14 targets; 10 receptions; 105 yards): Welker is averaging 9.5 receptions per game. If he hadn't missed two games earlier this season, he'd likely be a lock to break Marvin Harrison's NFL record for receptions in a season (143).

Devin Aromashodu (12 targets; 8 receptions; 76 yards): Aromashodu came out of nowhere this weekend and performed better than studs like Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss. Don't expect a recurrence of that feat.

Brandon Gibson (11 targets; 6 receptions; 43 yards): If you are desperate, Gibson might be your best available option. It might not be pretty, but he should net you four or five points.

Pierre Garcon (9 targets; 2 receptions; 39 yards): Pay no attention to his bad game, it was an aberration and he remains one of Peyton Manning's favorite options.

Kevin Boss (8 targets; 7 receptions; 70 yards): The eight targets Boss received marked only the third time he broke five targets in a game during this season. If you are wondering why Boss seems so up and down this year, this stat says it all.

Big plays and up close

There's little doubt that Chris Johnson is just plain sick, but consider this: Johnson was stopped for a loss on eight of his 28 carries and lost 12 yards on those runs. Of course, he added another four Big Play Rushes (rushes that go for more than 10 yards) to his season total.

Three of Joshua Cribbs' eight carries went for more than 10 yards. Perhaps that's why Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini hinted that he's considering utilizing Cribbs as a tailback.

For those who are quick to blame the Cowboys' December woes on Tony Romo, consider this nugget: Marion Barber had five carries inside the 10 and finished the day with no touchdowns. Remember when he was a beast in those situations?

Quinton Ganther might just be usable the rest of the way. He converted three of his carries inside the 10 for touchdowns.

Joseph Addai and Mike Hart combined for six carries inside the 10; neither crossed the goal line. This is probably more of a testament to Denver selling out to stop the run in that area, which is probably also why Dallas Clark had three scores from 10 yards or closer.

Sizing up the schedule

As the schedule grows shorter, here's a look at the net favorable rushing and passing matchups the rest of the way. A favorable matchup is against a team ranked in the bottom 10 in the league, a non-favorable features a top 10 team; all other matchups are considered neutral.

If Peyton Manning carried you to the playoffs and the prospects of having him play only a quarter or two scare you, take a look at Josh Freeman. Sure, Freeman had an abysmal game against the New York Jets' top-ranked pass defense, but his upcoming schedule is the easiest that any NFL quarterback will face the rest of the way.

The top four passing schedules belong to Josh Freeman, Kyle Boller, Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers. Based on that, it seems to me like Rodgers has all but secured the final No. 1 quarterback ranking.

Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson and LeSean McCoy are all without a single favorable matchup the rest of the way. With the exception of DeAngelo Williams, the others aren't must-starts and should find the way to your bench when they roll against top-10 defenses.

Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: myespn.go.com/KenD17.